Edito : cosmopolitan
By Adrien Cugnasse
We’re living in difficult times and the word health, of course, springs to mind. However, this also applies to the political arena. Particularly on account of the terrorist attacks that have bedevilled France. At this precise moment in time, the temptation is great to pit one community against another, but we must remember the contribution that immigrants have made to our country. There have been many examples of this and at all levels of French society. Horse racing is no exception to this phenomenon. As it was Anglo-Irish immigrants who both trained and rode Gallic racehorses in the century when horse racing was first introduced to France. Neither can those nationals from the Middle East (Orientals), that is to say people hailing from countries with an Arabic language and culture, whether Muslim or not, be left out of calculations.
The Maurice Zilber story is one of immigration in the broadest sense. Born in Egypt in 1920, his father was from a family that had fled the pogroms of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His mother came from a family that had left Turkey. As a young Jew in post-war multi-faith Egypt, Maurice Zilber become a leading professional there where he trained for the top local owners. Clearly, PA horses played a major part in the explosion of his talent in Egypt, before he transferred to France in the early 1960s. Based at Chantilly and blessed with great charisma, the man from the Middle East (Oriental) was to leave a considerable mark on the history of international racing. His achievements are a faithful representation of the melting pot of our country's racing community, as his three main owners were an American (Nelson Bunker Hunt); plus a Frenchman of Ashkenazi descent (Daniel Wildenstein); and a Saudi aristocrat (Prince Khalid Abdullah). He was one of the few trainers to win both the Epsom Derby (Gr1) and its French equivalent, plus two editions of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr1), the Irish Oaks (Gr1), and numerous grade one events in North America.
When reminiscing about French racing’s past, the name Zilber is evocative of boldness, sportsmanship and generosity. He died in 2008, but he was part of the many professionals and leading owners who, having graduated via the world of PA racing, went on to discover that our cosmopolitan French arena was the right outlet when it came showcasing talent to all and sundry…
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